So, you got your hands on Samsung's new Galaxy Note 8 and are on the look for new apps that make use of the phone's S-Pen? Or maybe you're on the fence still and are looking into what the stylus and software on the Note 8 are capable of? Either way, what we have for you today is a list of our favorite apps to use with the S-Pen! It is by no means a complete list, but it does contain all of the highlights that we've experienced while scribbling and doodling away at the Note 8!
We are including both productivity- and creativity-oriented apps in our list, although let's face it — the creative applications of the S-Pen arguably outweigh its productive aspects (in yours truly's opinion)! Some may simply like scribbling down notes, or scrolling pages by hovering the pen toward the top or bottom bezel, or maybe translating entire passages of text on the fly. But for the creative types out there, the S-Pen is so much more than that. It's—well—it's a pen! And it has a digital sheet of paper to go along with it! Or is it the other way around? Bah, it doesn't matter! What I'm getting at here, is that there sure are a lot of excellent apps out there that take advantage of the S-Pen's capabilities, and that are geared toward content creation. If you just want to scribble down notes, you're still covered!
AutoDesk's SketchBook is the first app I fired up when I got my hands on a Galaxy Tab with S-Pen support a while ago. It definitely isn't the most involved drawing tool for touch screens out there, but sure is one solid offering! SketchBook offers users a multitude of tools to play around with, such as various types of paint brushes, customizable pencils, pens, and markers—as well as many stamps, and "shapes" brushes, if that's more your jam—as well as a full-fledged layer editor with up to 3 layers and 16 blending modes. Without going into too much detail, SketchBook also has a bunch of mirror modes that automatically mirror whatever your drawing in different ways, as well as transforming tools, and time-lapse recording feature that lets you record in-app videos of your progress to share with others. Pretty neat!
But SketchBook is not the only awesome app by developer AutoDesk, which by the way is the same company behind the wildly popular CAD drafting software AutoCad. I suggest that you check out everything on offer by AutoDesk (which, yes, includes a mobile version of AutoCad), as there are a dozen or so very fun, very useful apps on offer, and they all are a perfect match for the Note 8 and its S-Pen!
Free / requires Adobe CC subscription for some features
Adobe Illustrator Draw
Adobe Photoshop Express
Adobe Premiere Clip
It is tough picking only one from Adobe's excellent suit of creativity apps for Android. Photoshop Express is capable and all, and it feels good on the Note 8 as well, but if we're talking S-Pen-driven experiences, Adobe Illustrator Draw is your app. It's an amazingly versatile tool that lets you do vector drawings on the go, which you can then share between Illustrator/Photoshop CC on your PC or laptop!
Adobe Illustrator Draw boasts comprehensive layer management system (as far as mobile apps go), with support for renaming, duplicating, merging, and adjusting each individual layer. And then there's the mind-blowing 64x zoom for really getting into the nitty gritty of it (although there's no real grit when working with Illustrator's pristine vectors), and the ability to send an editable native file to Illustrator or a PSD file to Photoshop that will automatically open on your desktop, which is just a godsend.
Of course, if you are an Adobe CC subscriber, there's a ton of other stuff to get into, such as the Creative Cloud assets library and cross-platform sync, but we'll leave these to the side for now.
Bamboo Paper is one of the most comprehensive digital notebooks that you'll find out there, and it comes straight from the masterminds at Wacom. It's really a lot more than just a note-taking app, this one. It definitely is inclined more toward the productivity side of the spectrum, as far as this list is concerned, but Bamboo Paper allows for plenty of creativity as well. Think of it not as a simple note-taking app, but more as a digital album where you visually express ideas with ink and paint, annotate concepts with photos, and a lot more.
If you're looking for a cross-platform notebook app with cloud synch and all the bells and whistles, look no further than Wacom's Bamboo Paper.
Squid is another note-taking app that makes good use of the S-Pen. But it doesn't really care if you're using the stylus or your finger, it just doesn't want you typing away at a digital keyboard! It's a pretty refreshing take on the digital notebook and one that offers all the functionality that you'd expect from an app like that, but tops it off with a handful of features aimed at power users.
Some of Squid's stand-out features include quick selection tools that let you copy/paste items between pages, export notes as PDFs, and a neat "whiteboard" feature that lets you use your device as a digital whiteboard during conference calls (although you'd need a Miracast or Chromecast for that one). Further, Squid is entirely vector-based, which means that you can resize your notes and scribbles to your heart's content without compromising quality!
MediBang Paint is a free paint app that makes great use of Samsung's S-Pen. Upon opening the app for the first time, you'll be met with a walkthrough on how to get around its rather complicated, but very future-rich, interface, and my advice would be to pay attention! MediBang's interface is not all that complicated, but it is a far cry from SketchBook's minimalist aesthetic, so it may take a bit of getting used to. But on the other hand, it also grants you more creative freedom with a myriad of tools and options to choose from. With over 100 brushes and other tools, and over 850 backgrounds and textures to use in your creations, if versatility is your end goal, then MediBang Paint is sure to please.
During our time with the app, we found that drawing with the S-Pen feels fluid and responsive, especially when using paint, with brushes leaving pleasing, colorful strokes atop the digital canvas. As can be expected, MediBang Paint supports layers, cloud syncing, and much more, but some of the features require that you create a MediBang account (which is free).
Okay, so we've featured a lot of excellent, creativity-focused apps in this list, but to fully make use of some of them, one would have to be at least a little bit gifted with the pen. And those of us who aren't, well, we can always learn, can't we? That's why we are also featuring Learn How to Draw on this list.
The app features a lot of tutorials, covering the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, and although majority of the material here is concerned primarily with comic-book style drawing, there are some invaluable lessons to be found. Getting the hang of how to draw a human figure in a variety of different poses, or different faces conveying different emotions, without going in to deep in anatomical lessons, is something that many out there may find useful.